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Can't We All Just Roll Along?

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To envision the future he'd like to see, architect Robin Levitt shows a small downtown crowd of transportation geeks a selection of postwar photographs of Berlin and Copenhagen. During the 1950s, these cities rebuilt their streets, sidewalks, and buildings to accommodate automobiles, just as American cities such as San Francisco did. Predictably, automobiles soon replaced other modes of transportation.

Can't We All Just Roll Along?

There is a way bike riders and car drivers can more safely coexist, and help the environment.

By Matt Smith
SF Weekly
May 7, 2008

To envision the future he'd like to see, architect Robin Levitt shows a small downtown crowd of transportation geeks a selection of postwar photographs of Berlin and Copenhagen. During the 1950s, these cities rebuilt their streets, sidewalks, and buildings to accommodate automobiles, just as American cities such as San Francisco did. Predictably, automobiles soon replaced other modes of transportation.

"After the war, both these cities took on the American model of building roads and automobile infrastructure," Levitt said during a presentation last week at the nonprofit think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR). "As a result, bicycling declined in both of these cities, and they ignored the bicycling and pedestrian environment."

However, following the 1970s OPEC embargo, many European leaders redesigned their cities, inviting back the old ways of getting around by creating space for bicycling, public transit, and walking. As a result, Levitt said, about 15 percent of commuter trips in Berlin are made by bicycle; in Copenhagen, more than 33 percent are.

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